May 30th, 2008
05:02 PM ET

Anderson's View: the 360° Scott McClellan interview

You can view the entire with Scott McClellan AC360° here.
You can view the entire with Scott McClellan AC360° here.

Anderson Cooper

I just got done interviewing Scott McCellan. He’s been interviewed on a couple of other programs already, but I think you will find the interview we are going to air on 360 tonight is much different.

I was up until about 4am last night reading the book, and I finished it earlier today. I believe in holding people accountable for their words and actions, and not taking political sides, and I think you will see my effort to do all those things in the interview tonight.

I wanted to give McClellan the opportunity to directly address some of the specific attacks being made against him by the White House and its surrogates, but I also wanted to directly address some of the things that are vague in his book.

He blames being stuck in the White House “bubble” but is that really a valid excuse for his actions? He says he was caught up in the Washington game, but does that justify making what he now admits were misleading statements?

Anyway, I think you will be interested in the interview tonight. It’s tough, but fair. I hope you tune it.

Filed under: Anderson Cooper • Scott McClellan
soundoff (189 Responses)
  1. Amanda

    Anderson, watched your interview Friday night somewhat cynically. Seems to have become standard practice now for people to blame the circumstances, the environment, the bubble (?)... But on the other hand if we all know that the emperor is naked why the surprise when someone mentions it.

    However, I think that McClellan maybe exhibiting something that all of us are suffering from now – the world is becoming so complex and when we don't have deep expertise on something you tend to trust that those who do. I know it was his job to have peripheral vision, but he was surrounded by credible people (?). Heard a comment recently that deep analytical thinking is becoming the most required survival skill modern man – can't agree more. Mr McClennan could perhaps have had use for it.

    He did make me think of the old 80s song, You’re the voice when John Farnam sings We can write what we want to write, we’ve got to make ends meet before we get much older.

    June 2, 2008 at 7:53 am |
  2. Pedro


    I watched the interview online and I have to say that I admire the way you keep pressing on and when the McClellan tried to give a vague answer you kept pressing on and you kept him honest. I haven't read the book but it seems that if all of it is true, being caught up in the "bubble" is not a valid reason to stay in with the administration. As you said, he's a public servant and he should have put the interests of the American people first. As many politicians, he didn't do that, it seems that it's just a little bit too late for him to start reflecting on the mistakes and a little bit too late for him to start speaking out. Anyways, great interview, you kept him honest, keep up the great work.

    June 2, 2008 at 5:32 am |
  3. Tyler

    Scott McCellan's could easily be branded self-serving. After all, did it tell us anything that any reasonable person didn't already know? Probally not. But to Scott's credit the American people owe him a big Thank You, for his courage to step forward and do the right thing.

    Now, the big question that remains is what we the people are going to do about what George and Dick did to our country. Are we going to just let it go and move on or are we going to insist on prosecuting these men and their associates for the crimes they have committed against the USA. I hope so because if we don't we have no business ever again pushing our morals on other's because we simply have none.

    June 1, 2008 at 10:36 pm |
  4. Julie San Diego, CA

    Anderson and Company, thanks for attacking the problem at the source – political servants that embrace the "political" but not the "servant". These people work for us. We should be able to expect nothing less than transparency, honor, and honesty.

    FYI to all you CNN fans – Yahoo added a 20 minute edit of the McClellan interview to their "news ticker" this weekend.

    Scott sure blinks a lot when he's not sticking to script.

    I'm usually pretty perceptive, but I just can't put my finger on why he doesn't look the slightest bit upset that all his old friends are attacking him.

    Something's wrotten in Denmark. And this smells big.

    Get to the bottom of it, guys.

    You're officially absolved for every bear video I've had to fast forward through on the Tivo. Thanks for reminding me why I keep watching.

    June 1, 2008 at 1:52 pm |
  5. pittsburgh

    I thought he was quite credible. Let's be honest. The American people aren't stupid (well, okay, maybe some). We've known this has been going on for a long time. You could see the guy was uncomfortable when you watched him as Press Secretary. Telling all the lies over and over made him sick and he finally had to talk.
    I believe him.

    June 1, 2008 at 1:19 pm |
  6. Chris Pernfuss

    Very dissapointed with your approach to interviewing Scott McLellan!
    Why so confrontational ? He was simply giving his viewpoint based on his experience with the Bush Administration. We all know that the first casualty of war is the truth and the Bush White house is as bad as it's ever been. What Mclellan has to say is not surprising to me at all. If you spent less time attacking Mclellan and more time dealing with what he had to offer your interview would have been more compelling.

    June 1, 2008 at 9:54 am |
  7. Pat M

    Anderson great interview, I really enjoyed it. I believe Scott is telling the truth as he feels it, his truth. I feel he is a man that would have regrets if he felt he had unknowningly or unwittingly been part of a cover up for the Iraq war. I can also believe that one can get caught up in the White House game, there were many that did and feared Bush's confirmation on WMD's might put America in great danger. Bush not Scott is the man who has much to answer for.

    June 1, 2008 at 12:06 am |
  8. JaninaWalker

    Have people present, and have it filmed, when you ask McClellan whether he had a ghost writer or editor who had a significant input to the creation of the book. If people say he was not a complainer prior to the book and that it was out of character, and that it sounded more like that of a leftist blogger, then it likely was mostly written by someone else who had an agenda or strong opinions..

    Someone likely had the idea that he should write a book and maybe even offered to do it, for some cut in the profits. You likely won't get a truthful answer, that is why I say have people in the room to watch his expressions carefully, and have it filmed. Even ask him if he is willing to take a lie detector test, at the end, and watch his reaction.

    If he says he will not speak about the book until a certain time, that indicates that he has to read it himself to find out what he is deemed to have written. I know a person who has really written the book would know what is in it and would not have to bone up before an interview. Being a competent author takes a lot of time, so he should already know the book far better than anyone.

    May 31, 2008 at 9:04 pm |
  9. sam

    your persuit of fact from scott can only be obtained from impeachment / criminal proceeding. scott however provide valuable insight from inner circle which we should encourage rather than muzzling. job for press should be side of scott not administration since they already have ample mussle for coverup without help of press. i totally agree with scott that press abandoned completely thier responsibility to check on bush as obviouosly shown in iraqui wmd case. don,t tell us that everybody bellieved iraqui had one. press consistently ignored cia leake that they do not. i think that commercial news organization sould get out of business and public news organization takes over since you guys only act as mouth piece of administration. afterall, you guys are there for profit and public dont have but bush clan has money.

    May 31, 2008 at 8:29 pm |
  10. Suzanne

    Thank you Anderson for holding his feet to the fire and asking tough questions. I understand the reason for your interruptions - you can let people babble on about their talking points, but you had a lot of questions for him and relatively little time to ask them. Continue making sure your guests are properly grilled. I personally am glad McClellan is at least speaking out on this and commend him for his bravery, but it doesn't mean he should be given a soft interview. The questions you asked are common questions the American people have, and it's very refreshing to see a journalist on TV asking the tough questions on behalf of the public.

    We all want to know why he didn't resign, and I agree with a comment above - McClellan refuses to admit that it was his job as a press secretary to lie. The softer words are "spin" and "misleading," but guess what? It's all lies to me.

    May 31, 2008 at 7:45 pm |
  11. Lily, Virginia

    I had seen other interviews with Mr. Mclellan, but not to wonderfully butter you up; your questions are the most throrough ones that he has had to anwer so far. What I understood about him stating as being "caught in the Washington game" was that he meant to say "yes, I was as much part of the deceptions and lies as much as those White House officials were, and I did not want to look the other way". I think on occasion he was trying to say that he appologizes for being part of those deceptions, but we have yet to hear a direct apology to the American public from him. That should done if he wants to establish the legitimacy of his message.

    May 31, 2008 at 7:25 pm |
  12. Lois

    For everyone that is so righteous about McClellan. All I can say is, WHO DID YOU VOTE FOR IN 2004? How is it EVERYONE knew he was lying, but he was re-elected. Resoundingly as I recall...

    It's easy to believe he was duped when the majority of the US was.

    As far as coming clean sooner, you don't believe him now; why would you have believed him then?

    May 31, 2008 at 7:17 pm |
  13. Fay, CA

    The public is needs journalists to step up and ask tough questions of those in power and hold them accountable just as they did during Hurricane Katrina. McClellan has said that most journalists fell down on the job during the run up to the war–Anderson's interview with him last night is a good example of the kind tough and probing questioning that should be standard practice for all reporters.

    May 31, 2008 at 7:08 pm |
  14. Rick- San Francisco

    Anderson, I think a lot of us are curious about the real circumstances which caused McClellan's departure as Press Sec. Is there actual cause for the "disgruntled" defense? Not that it matters- they are clearly all guilty of treason, war cimes and crimes against humanity. To the gallows with the whole administration! Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rove, Rumsfield, etc. They all deserve to hang!!!!

    May 31, 2008 at 6:17 pm |
  15. Liz (Chino Hills, CA)

    Hi Anderson,

    I watched your interview .......... YOU WERE TOUGH, but FAIR!


    All these revelations make me doubt everything about POLITICS!

    Thanks for keeping them honest!


    May 31, 2008 at 3:17 pm |
  16. Cindy

    You have opened the door on many issues for all of us so that the amount of information we have on issues is greatly increased, Anderson, but often it seems that the information comes to us jaded so that we see it a certain way. It is time for you and all of news' personnel to just give us information and let us decide how to think about it. Style is important, and you have incredible style; however, your style is not what should guide us to coming to our own conclusions. Our conclusions should be our own, and they should be reached by using having access to information without prejudice.

    It is obvious to anyone who reads newspapers or watches news programs on television that corporate interests impact the actual news that we get. Your integrity should allow you to step above all that and get you to give us just the facts. Please consider that for future interviews and news casts. Thank you.

    May 31, 2008 at 3:12 pm |
  17. Judy

    Anderson you did a great job of interviewing Scott McClellan. I really liked the way you questioned when he'd say "in the bunker", and the "bubble". You absolutely didn't let him evade your questions. Excellent interview.

    May 31, 2008 at 3:09 pm |
  18. M. Giaquinto.

    The one major question not asked during your interview I believe still needs to be addressed: "When McCellean took the oath of his office, he swore to defend the constitution. Why was that not asked of him? Instead of loyalty to the president being the issue. The constitution states that law is supreme and that we are a country of laws not of people.

    May 31, 2008 at 8:11 am |
  19. Ron Gebo

    I am inclined to believe McClellan. If he had spoken up at the beginning or told President Bush he couldn't do what he was expected to do then we would never know what really is going on in the White House. Furthermore we all knew Bush was involving us in the Iraq war for oil and nothing else. Why people voted for this idiot for president is beyond me. It was all money that got him there. I bet in years to come we will find out that Bush was not running the country he was just a spokesman.
    We can look at Secretary of State Powell when he was trying to convince the UN of the WMD's in Iraq. You could tell on his face he was making up that story. I had a lot of faith in Powell until he spoke at the UN. He knew it was a lie, why didn't he quit?

    May 31, 2008 at 6:04 am |
  20. Yolanda McLain

    So many are questioning Mr. McClellan regarding his failure to speak up while serving the President. How many times do we have to hear that the President does not like to hear anything that opposes his view and interpretation of facts, events, of reality. This is the "bubble" McClellan refers to, one where no dissent is tolerated, frank discussions on issues with varying facets do not occur in this White House. President Bush, Karl Rove, Vice President Chaney used McClellan to spread their clouded, skewed vision of the world. Only upon leaving has he realized how used and abused he was as well as the American people. I admire his courage. He knew all too well, what type of speaking points the White House would use against him. The Bush family motto is "Loyalty above all else" and woe be to anyone who veers from their concept of loyalty. I believe Mr. McClellan has been loyal ... to the American people.

    May 31, 2008 at 5:42 am |
  21. brandy

    I thought the interview was fair and tough.
    I also think that McClellan is now a man with a huge weight off his chest. This is his moment and I totally feel him.
    There are times in our every day jobs that we go along with the way the bubble is shaped. Today I talked to a representative who knows her company is frauding people out of tons of money in fees. They are being sued left and right. She didn't want to address that, just said what was already prepared for her to reply to an irate customer.
    I find myself going along at work and reaping the benefits of doing so. The benefit of taking care of my kids, paying my rent and keeping up with my car payment to name a few things.
    The point is that better late than never. I am glad he picked now to do this. He should be commended and now he needs to get more specific. This will hopefully open up the potential for transparency in our government.
    And I hope McClellan votes for Obama in 08!

    May 31, 2008 at 4:17 am |
  22. Solome

    Hi Anderson,

    Let me start out by saying that I am a fan of your show and what I respect the most about you is the passion and integrity with which you do your job. I do, however, believe that your McClellan interview was not entirely fair. Yes, it was fair to ask him the questions that you did, but not how you asked them. I kept on thinking, 'I wish he would let him finish answering the questions....' You probably are one of the very few (or only) journalist who has read McCllelan's book in its entirety and has gotten to interview him. I understand that you may have been eager to ask all that you wanted to ask, but it seemed instead that you wanted to express your opinion.

    The thing I would like to say most is that the press has suffered from the same inability to question our elected leaders [re the build-up to the war] as Scott McCllelan and others who now have misgivings about having given the President and Vice President carte blanche. Your segment with CNN reporter Jessica Yellin on Wednesday says it all. I remember thinking during the build-up to the war, 'Is no politician OR even member of the press going to express a cautionary advice or a dissenting opinion for fear of being labeled unpatriotic?' The most "brave" and "honest" people turned out to be everyday citizens who protested the beginning of the war....

    Look, I am originally from a country where questioning your elected officials is not a right. My family defected to America because of this. It is one of the things that I love most about being an American citizen.

    I guess we learn from our mistakes and time gives us the perspective that we don't have at the time we make certain decisions. So, let Scott McClellan speak....Actually, I wish that members of the media would also come out and speak about what happened!

    May 31, 2008 at 3:39 am |
  23. James Dylan

    Excellant interview Mr.Cooper. It illistrated one of the old problems on our path to democracy which again has reared it's ugly head. Many, best seen in the current administration, believe loyalty to be a virtue to serve a king. Those people, McClellan and his old pals, wrongly believe that king, to be the president, whom is only the clerk to the true king; the people of this nation. And as kings, we the people will reward McClellen for admitting treasoneous behavior by buying his book and filling his pocketbook, when not beheading or imprisoning him is more than enough. Perhaps one day we all realize what a truly great gift our founding fathers have given us all. Until then I can only HOPE to see that day; which is to say, continue to allow myself to be tormented.
    That's right Obama, HOPE has always been and will always be a torment. For simply acknowledging that we kings will make you our clerk. Sorry for that last little bit of topic. I still see so much ignorance in us to elect Bush not once but twice and then falling even harder for more propaganda. But, I don't know, maybe this is just our ebb and flow or ying and yang. Or perhaps one day our "eduacated elite" will not become so "institutionally eduacated."

    May 31, 2008 at 3:06 am |
  24. Rick

    It is abundantly clear now that there was deliberate deception perpetrated on the American people, and the world for that matter. The big question is: Who knew the truth? Did the President know, then knowingly disseminate misinformation? Or, did he take advisors at their word and unknowingly spread falsehoods? I do not, as a rule, trust what comes from the Press Secretary because, in spite of his public servant status, ultimately he answers to the President, and it is his job to relay information given to him, and sell it. But I do want to know if our President is truthful. I have always believed people such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were "old school" Republicans, in that they believed that "might is right" and the hell with what the American people thought. Neither of them would let public opinion decide any issue, if the opinion was contrary to theirs. I think this administration will go down as a deceitful and highly secretive one.

    Regarding some comments as to McClellan's motive(s) for writing such a book, I ask, "What does it matter"? If he's telling the truth, does it matter if it was for money, or a dying wish to his grandmother? That is just another example of the Republican party using slight of hand to distract the public..."Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain". Harry Houdini must have been a Republican because they sure seem to know all the tricks.

    The fact of the matter is, I have become rather disillusioned with both parties. Two terms of Bush administration lies, preceded by two terms of Clinton administration lies, and so on. Perhaps saddest of all, is America's loss of stature around the world. We plunged head first into a war, despite the evidence, and damn whatever the rest of the world thought should be done. For a country held in such high esteem at one point, it was the height of arrogance.

    May 31, 2008 at 2:54 am |
  25. Jesus, Montreal

    The way this interview was conducted by Anderson gave me the impression that he was the defense attorney for the Bush administration. This fast paced interview with constant grilling and cutting off Scott McClellan before he could finish his responses (real annoying and unprofessional) seemed like an effort to keep him off balance and attempt to make him stumble. Kudos to Scott McClellan for keeping his composure and calmly explaining his viewpoints. Press secretaries are nothing more than the official spin machine for an administration. To think that any presidential press secretary does not live in a bunker mentally in today's world, is I believe, quite naive. Specially when the higher levels of a presidential administration will often compartmentalize information as is common practice in the intelligence and military communities. Don't condemn the messenger for retrospective hindsights when the journalistic community as a whole did a pretty pathetic job of seeing through the Bush neo-con agenda. In writing such a critical book of his former employer, Scott McClellan has shown great courage and conscience; it isn't an easy task when one knows all the heat that's going to come your way. I'm convinced historians will regard it as an important insider's perspective on what is arguably the worst American administration in history.

    May 31, 2008 at 2:35 am |
  26. Kevin Pritchard

    I'm horrified that Bob Dole could call Scott McClellan a "horrible creature" while still being married to that HORRIBLE CREATURE also known as Elizabeth Dole. That horrible creature lied to the citizens of North Carolina saying she was a caregiver to that poor old woman who gave birth to her. She never showed up in the state until she had to bury that 101 victim of her neglect. Bob Dole should go get another HGH (Human Growth Hormone) shot and give it a rest. That crazy old clown he's married to looks like quazimoto as she shuffles her way around this state bribing one ignorant Sheriff after another.. Elizabeth Dole is a true embarrassment to the US Senate and to the state of North Carolina. Bob Dole should protect his good record in the Senate and divorce that fornicating old gold-digging slapper who ruined his marriage 30 years ago! She is truly a disgrace!

    May 31, 2008 at 2:26 am |
  27. henry

    yes i think scott Mclellen should apoligize because that is wrong.

    May 31, 2008 at 2:16 am |
  28. Sherri

    I saw Scott McClellan doing exactly as he did in the White House- dancing around the topic and spouting repetative non answers. It somewhat concerns me if as he says- those inside the White House are insulated from the 'larger perspective' . Of course , if that is true- it would account for the administrations seemingly total lack of awareness of how real people in this country are feeling. I felt he offered nothing that was genuine. He certainly has a right to his opinion. It's bothersome that when he states how betrayed he felt, and how isolated- he didn't leave immetiately. I would assume at that level of civil servant positions- you sort out what you can live with and still look at yourself when you brush your teeth- or what you can't face and act accordingly. It's beyond tiresome for public officials to either commit bad actis or condone them and then throw themselves on the mercy of the rest of us. And they get rewarded for it. I've been in the position over the years to be at polar opposite with my boss- and have worked to find another position. Mr. McClellan was getting something out of his job as Presss Secretary- otherwise whe wound not have accepted and kept the job.

    May 31, 2008 at 2:02 am |
  29. clarity

    I am quite disappointed in ou hard line interview of McClellan.
    This man is taking a huge risk in coming forth and baring his White House soul to the world. While he worked as press secretary he had to wear the face of an employee of the government and was compelled to do whatever was asked of him to do by the White House big wigs All employees have to wear the company mask and McClellan is not different. Anderson, CNN is your boss and you have to run your show just the way they tell you to do.

    I knew the war was a sham like many American and I knew we were being hoodwinked and lied to just like you knew, Anderson. You asked McClellan if he felt he had betrayed the America people? He was only the messenger– so stop giving him hell.

    May 31, 2008 at 2:00 am |
  30. Julie San Diego, CA

    Ok. Let me get this straight.

    Bob "Mr. I Hawk Viagra on Late Night TV" Dole tells McClellan he "cashes in"?

    Note McClellan's change in facial expression every time he says the phrase "transform the Middle East". Still selling.

    Anderson, the only thing better than watching you skewer the guy would have been getting to do it myself. THANK YOU. It's about time somebody asked why they can't tell the truth...

    May 31, 2008 at 1:45 am |
  31. Cherlyn Curtis

    Your interview tonight was one of the BEST I have ever heard you do.
    I loved your line. This is a man that is very angry about something, I think it is much more than just realizing he was duped. I appreciate your holding him accountable. If he really wants to change Washington...it won't be by such a book, he has already shown us he is willing to lie to us (as you said he was a civil servant). We call "Liers, liers because that is what they do, they lie".

    We all know truth is always in question when dealing with politicians. And truth is always bias. I for one, am not interested in "following an admitted lier" so I'm certainly not open to his ideas on how to resolve things. He shows no respect for the office of the president. His actions do not indicate he is really interested in changing things. He is out for destruction, he must be awfully mad. Was he passed over for a position he coveted or something.

    If Scott McClellan has suddenly been stricken with some sort of moral character, then I do think he owes all of us a sincere apology. He should be repentant not self righteous.

    May 31, 2008 at 1:43 am |
  32. Pete

    Wow! Someone actually disillusioned with the Cheney-Rove-Bush regime. Welcome back to the real world, Scott. There's hope for you.

    After all the deceit and manipulativeness of this administration, I find it difficult to understand why anyone would not have confidence in Scott McClellan's views of the White House. In typical fashion, of course, they're out to discredit him left and right. And yet, it'd be nice, just for once, to have someone in government ever admit that they were dead wrong and apologize for it.

    May 31, 2008 at 1:39 am |
  33. Jenn Alm

    Anderson Cooper,

    As you interview Scott McClellan you so sincerely point out how its a big deal for you to strive to be "unbiased" in your work each day - Then we move immediately to a short piece with Bill Clinton and "Boney Flair" - uh, Tony Blair - a "superdelegate" for Clinton's wife Hillary. Get over yourself - you're as unbiased as the Catholic priest at Trinity United in Chicago. At least McClellan got honest with himself!

    May 31, 2008 at 1:39 am |
  34. Younes

    Anderson, wherever there is a smoke, there is a fire. I dont see that Scott would pull a story like this just to sell his book. I dont think he needs the money this bad. What I think the motive from writing this book is telling the truth to the American people because, he felt guilty of not doing it a long time ago. So, personally believe him

    May 31, 2008 at 1:38 am |
  35. Dave Nittel

    Your interview with Mr McClellan was like none I've ever see you conduct before; there was an unparalleled combativeness to your tone and manner.
    You would be the most respected man in journalism if you conducted all interviews in such a hard hitting manner... but as this was unique to Scott, it came off as though you were punishing him for growing a conscience and displaying a fundamental lack of respect. A level of respect that you would demonstrate for any politician- no matter how two faced.
    Keep it up?

    May 31, 2008 at 1:36 am |
  36. Barb

    Scott is a botch. He sits and points fingers at everyone but to me is a hypocrite that doesn't deserve all the attention that he will receive from this book. Every interview he has had different answers to his questions, he never seems fully positive of anything he is saying, and has openly admitted that some of the things he spoke of in the book he was not there to first hand experience. If things were so bad he should have resigned from his position from the beginning instead of writing a book. I can't figure out why all these politicians think that writing a book is comparable to actually changing something in the american government. Trying to make a buck on the popular opinions of americans who let the news make decisions for them, instead of being educated on actual FACTS doesn't make you the all knowing God to write a book.

    Vote McCain.

    May 31, 2008 at 1:31 am |
  37. Jason in Humboldt

    Scott Mcellan is a snitch. Nothing he says can be trusted and no respectable democrat will align him/herself with a rat.

    May 31, 2008 at 1:20 am |
  38. Josh Sloan

    I'm so tired of everyone talking and interviewing these guys such as Scott McClellan. Lets face it our government messed up seriously with the war but lets not let another guy write a book pointing fingers and making money off of our American Soldiers such as myself and start working on fixing this serious national problem. We need to bring our friends, family and brothers home. Stop feeding these guys who just want to make money off our issues and lets work on the problems.

    May 31, 2008 at 1:20 am |
  39. Kitty

    I just think this is not right. He is cashing in on a high profile job. He was the spokeperson! Doesn't he fault himself at all. Your interview was good-he's deflecting

    May 31, 2008 at 1:14 am |
1 2 3 4